Dads, partners play a role in successful breastfeeding

8/9/2016 by Maegen Storm, APRN, CNP

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Establishing a breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby is an important step for many women in their motherhood journey. For new dads or partners, their journey into parenthood also has begun, and their role helping develop this breastfeeding relationship is a crucial one. 

Studies show that moms who are more confident in their breastfeeding abilities are more likely to successfully breastfeed longer. A partner's positive support is fundamental to this success. But many partners aren't sure how to do this. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Be verbal. Words of encouragement can boost a new mother's morale when she may be experiencing feelings of doubt or frustration. Use humor. Leaking breasts, post-partum body changes and newborn bodily functions can catch you by surprise, but using humor can ease any insecurity she may be feeling and let her know you are in this new life together. 
  2. Be hands on. Help with positioning the baby to the breast. Bring the nursing mother water, snacks and help with diapering, bathing, comforting and burping the baby. If she is pumping, help with washing the pump parts and bottles. 
  3. Be educated. Learn basic techniques for proper latching and positing of the baby to the breast, as well as common latching difficulties. Attend prenatal classes, post-partum visits, lactation visits and well-baby check-ups in order to learn more about breastfeeding and care of a newborn. 
  4. Be involved in the decision-making process. Many women make the decision to breastfeed prior to birth. Being a part of this decision helps her feel that you're united in your mission to provide excellent nutrition for the baby. Have a conversation about the role your partner envisions would be most helpful so that you understand each other's expectations. Keep in mind that not all women ultimately decide that breastfeeding is right for them and their infants. Be there for her to weigh the benefits, but be supportive of her final decision. 
  5. Be positive. If mom is feeling any doubt or uneasiness, be there to cheer her on. Knowing normal newborn behaviors, how to tell if the baby is getting enough milk, etc., can uplift and reassure her. You also can encourage others to be positive and supportive of breastfeeding as well, by telling them how proud you are of her and heading off naysayers. 

Breastfeeding is not without its challenges, but together you can optimize your chances for successfully accomplishing the breastfeeding goal: a thriving, happy baby!

Maegen Storm, APRN, CNP, is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM) and has a special interest in breastfeeding for the health of the baby. Maegen and her husband have enjoyed partnering to breastfeed their four boys.